Sometimes in life you do something for one reason expecting one outcome- and an entirely different result happens. So as we sat down last week, I never saw the slow moving emotional train wreck that was headed my way.
Mostly I think, that was a result of my bad memory and poor judgment. But then again, I have always been that way.
So we sat down and talked and eventually the conversation turned to that three month time frame some twenty years earlier- a time when he was very nearly fired and ultimately resigned. Back then I had chalked the whole episode up to his immaturity and nothing else.
What I failed to do, quite honestly, was examine my own behavior and how I handled things.
And as I sat there talking and listening, I heard an angry 20 something recount what happened blow by blow. I couldn't stop thinking about how poorly we handled that situation. I also noticed a failure on his part to take any responsibility for what happened. Twenty years of anger was on full boil.
And for everything you know in life- there was a time when you didn't know it. You get schooled and taught. That's how life works. Nobody is born a great manager but many of us think that somehow we have some intelligent skill set that sets us apart. That of course is unconscious ego and pure bullshit. The reality in my life is that most people suck as managers. Like most, I had no reference point. No way to measure where I stacked up in the world of people managing until just a few years before I retired. I met a truly great manager and human being with an outstanding sense of right and wrong. He was committed to helping people when they were down. He didn't throw good people away. He was fair. He was absolutely dedicated to being a decent human being, he was selfless, and he always used impeccable speech. So through him, I began to realize how inadequate I had been as a manager myself. Not because he was trying to prove some point to me but because he was simply a great manager. That's how he worked. He became my mirror- just a little too late I'm afraid.
That is the irony of my resume'.
So about the time my friend had summarized his feelings from way back when- he volleyed the subject back to me.
I told him the truth. I probably sucked as a manager. I could have handled that situation far better with the emotional equipment I have now. Back then, in some unconscious way, I probably thought I was a good manager. I simply didn't know the difference between good or bad. None of us are born with some operating guide- we are simply the sum total of all of the crappy and average managers we have ever had. We act like them mostly, thinking we've made some vast improvement, because we manage to cut a bad habit here and there.
I did the best I could at that time. It probably wasn't that good. I know that now because I found good once. I know how that guy would have handled it.
The other odd thing I've learned is that I am no longer invested in being right. You don't "win" conversations by arguing about who was right or wrong. You take responsibility for your shortcomings without pointing out theirs. With luck, they will discover that all on their own.
Just like I did.
My friend gave me a B- as a manager. I'll take that. I hope the two of us can be friends again.